Lincoln Forum and the Gettysburg Dedication

Abe and MeNovember 19th is Dedication Day, the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address (admit it, you had to memorize it in middle school too). It’s also the week of the annual Lincoln Forum, held November 16-18. I’ll be at both.

The focus of this year’s Forum is “Lincoln and His Contemporaries: Friends, Enemies, and Successors.” Speakers will include Charles Strozier (talking about Lincoln’s intimate friend, Joshua Speed), Steven Engle (Lincoln and the War Governors), Jonathan W. White (Dreams of War and Peace), Melanie Kirkpatrick (Lincoln and Thanksgiving, which appropriately follows next week), and Annette Gordon-Reed (Andrew Johnson, who is either a friend or enemy and questionable successor, depending on your point of view).

Not to be missed is a break out session in which friends and foes Craig L. Symonds and John F. Marszalek do their best Abbott and Costello routine (or Costello and Costello) facing off with Northern and Southern perspectives of the Civil War.

The Forum is deftly guided by founding and continuing Chair, the Honorable Frank J. Williams and unrivaled Lincoln scholar and Forum Vice-Chair, Harold Holzer. The two, along with a cast of dedicated Board members and staff, have led the Forum for 22 years, and every year seems to get even better. One of the preeminent Lincoln conferences, each year about 300 Lincoln scholars and aficionados, some in period costumes, join together to share great scholarship, good food, and long-lasting relationships. If you haven’t already, check out the Forum website at the link above (and the other Lincoln groups, including my own Lincoln Group of DC, in the links below).

I’ll be there catching up with other Lincoln authors, attending the talks, and increasing my already voluminous Lincoln library. I’ll also have copies of my own Lincoln book. Anyone who wants one can catch me roaming the hallways and I’ll be happy to sign one for you.

As the Forum ends the crowd shifts to the Gettysburg Battlefield where George Buss plays Abraham Lincoln and recites the Gettysburg Address. This year’s keynote speaker is none other than the Forum’s Harold Holzer.

This week is a busy one for us Lincoln scholars and geeks. Last night I attended a welcoming reception at the Lincoln Cottage for members of the Abraham Lincoln Association. ALA hosted us a year ago when over 20 Lincoln Group of DC members toured the Springfield, Illinois area. We were happy to return the favor as ALA engages in its annual “fishing trip” before heading up to the Lincoln Forum.

See you at the Forum!

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Lincoln at Gettysburg

As part of a busy few weeks, I attended the Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania just before Thanksgiving. The Forum brings together hundreds of Lincoln enthusiasts and scholars to hear some of the most well-known and respected thinkers in the field. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend.

Selfie with George Buss

George Buss has been portraying Lincoln for decades. This year marks his second time commemorating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Remembrance Day, November 19th, the 153rd anniversary of that day.

George Buss and Jon Willen

Photo courtesy of Jon Willen

In the photo above, George is joined by another friend, Jon Willen, who is a retired physician who, appropriately enough, plays a surgeon in Civil War reenactments. Between the two of them, it’s possible that George and Jon have spent more time in the 1860s than in any other decade. They were joined by many others on the battlefield for the commemoration.

Both were also at the Forum itself, with George, ahem, Abraham Lincoln, presenting parts of his first inaugural speech. The Forum also featured keynote presentations by Sidney Blumenthal (author of A Self-Made Man), Ron White, Jr. (American Ulysses), and Bud Robertson, Jr. (“After the Civil War”). Robertson also won the annual Richard Current Nelson Award of Achievement.

Lincoln Forum panel

Of course, there were many more speakers and panels led by Frank J. Williams and Harold Holzer (Chair and Vice Chair, respectively). We heard from Joan Waugh, Craig Symonds, John Marszalek, Richard Brookhiser, Catherine Clinton, Edna Greene Medford, Douglas Egerton, and others. All packed into 2-1/2 days of lectures, meet-and-greets, tours, and even a cooking class.

This was my third year attending the Forum, which I had missed all those years it conflicted in timing with my annual SETAC meeting. Now the Forum is on my calendar for every year forward.

Meanwhile, I’m in the final editing phase of my newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due out in 2017.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.

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A Few New Abraham Lincoln Books

Lincoln Forum CakeI’ve just returned from the annual Lincoln Forum conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was the 20th anniversary event, complete with cake. The Forum fills two and a half days with presentations by renowned Abraham Lincoln scholars, great camaraderie, and books. A lot of books. As usual, my bag coming home is filled with new books picked up at the conference bookstore.

This year I tried to restrict my book buying, so the total was only six (yes, only). In addition to all the new books there are opportunities to buy older tomes from Chuck Hand, collector extraordinaire. And then there is the unparalleled Dan Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, who always has an amazing showing of Lincoln photos, signed documents, and other artifacts. To this elite group we can add the beautiful sculptures of John McClarey.

Villainous CompoundsNow the books. New additions to my collection include an essay compilation book edited by Frank Williams and a second similar book edited by Joseph Fornieri. I also picked up an edition of Reck’s A Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours and a book on the lost whaling fleet (which had battled the confederate navy and the Arctic during the Civil War). Perhaps the most unique acquisition is a book called Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons & The American Civil War by Guy R. Hasegawa. With my scientific background it would almost be blasphemous if I hadn’t bought it (he tells himself, in a rationalizing sort of way).

Just and Generous NationHaving already bought it beforehand, I took advantage of the conference to bring my copy of Harold Holzer’s new book A Just and Generous Nation and had him inscribe it for me. As always, Harold was gracious and generous with his time and expertise. He noted that he wrote the first section of the book (seven chapters) and his co-author, economist Norton Garfinkle, wrote the second section (five chapters) on Lincoln’s economic improvement focus and influence on modern America. I’ll have a review of the book as soon as I finish reading it.

At the end of the year I’ll update on new Lincoln book acquisitions for 2015. And now…it’s on to writing!

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Science Traveling Abraham Lincoln

Abraham LincolnIt’s been a busy 48 hours with respect to Abraham Lincoln traveling. And it’s about to get even busier.

On Saturday I attended the monthly book discussion group of the Lincoln Group of DC (where last month I gave a talk on Lincoln and Technology). Our book this year is Michael Burlingame’s “green monster,” the name stemming both as an homage to the famous left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston and the color and size of his two-volume, 2000+ page tome Abraham Lincoln: A Life. As always, the discussions were lively and informative.

That night about a dozen current and past Lincoln Group members gathered for dinner and conversation at a beautiful Victorian-style home not far from George Washington’s famed Mount Vernon. Thank you John and Linda for a wonderful event and unbeatable hospitality.

And now it’s on to Gettysburg for 2-1/12 days of immersion at the historical Civil War battlefield site. The Abraham Lincoln Forum meets each year on the anniversary week of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Some of the most well-known Lincoln historians in the U.S. will be there for lectures, discussions, and roundtables. Both old and new Lincoln books will be on sale thanks to the appearances of Daniel Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop and many current authors. This is the 20th anniversary of the Forum, which from the beginning has been chaired by retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Frank Williams and vice-chaired by renowned Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. You can read more about last year’s Forum here.

Jim Getty

This year will also serve as a transition. Jim Getty (above) has been the go-to Abraham Lincoln interpreter in the Gettysburg region for many years. People travel from miles around to hear him present the Gettysburg Address on Dedication Day of the battlefield (November 19th). Last year he received the Forum’s prestigious Richard Nelson Current Award. Jim had retired from Lincoln interpretation work this year, then unexpected passed away this summer. He will be dearly missed. A remembrance is planned at this year’s event.

Abe and Me

Taking over the Dedication Day duties is interpreter George Buss, whom I met last year here at the Forum (see above; he’s the one with the hat). George has been a long-standing Forum member and has interpreted Lincoln for many years. He resides in the Springfield, Illinois area, which makes another upcoming event even more special. George will give a press conference in Washington, D.C. on December 3rd, taking questions from the public and the national press. In addition, the Lincoln Group of DC has arranged for George to bring Lincoln to our monthly dinner meeting on December 2nd, where he’ll engage in an intimate informal conversation with Lincoln Group members. Sign up on the Lincoln Group website.

The Forum runs through Wednesday night and is followed by the dedication ceremonies on the battlefield on Thursday. I’ll have more to report, plus photos, during and after the conference.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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The Lincoln Forum Comes to Gettysburg

Each year the Lincoln Forum comes to Gettysburg, PA, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech. This year marks the 19th annual symposium, and like all the symposia that preceded it, good times were had by all as over 300 learned people learned even more about our 16th President.

This was my first time in attendance at the Forum as the week had always coincided with the annual SETAC meeting. A shift in SETAC’s schedule put me in Vancouver a week early, which freed me up for the short drive to Gettysburg. Based on my experiences last week, I’ll definitely be at the Lincoln Forum in 2015 as they celebrate their “one-score” anniversary.

Abe and Me

Abraham Lincoln (aka, George Buss) and the author

As luck would have it I was able to meet two Abraham Lincolns (my first presidential photo-op). George Buss, in full regalia, is an active member of the Lincoln Forum. Jim Getty (more on him in a moment) is one of the most revered Lincoln presenters in the country.

Harold Holzer

Harold Holzer at the lectern, watched by Frank Williams

The conference was a cornucopia of Lincoln scholars. I was able to meet such esteemed historians as Harold Holzer, Frank Williams, Edna Greene Medford, Catherine Clinton, William C. “Jack” Davis, Craig L. Symonds, and, just one week after seeing them in Washington at the Lincoln Group of DC symposium, Tom Horrocks and Jonathan W. White. If all that scholarship wasn’t enough, noted Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson was there with his new book on another Civil War President – Jefferson Davis.

James McPherson

James McPherson

I also had the chance to speak with Daniel Weinberg, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, IL. A published author himself, Dan has been instrumental in bringing Lincoln book authors to the public, both through store sales and his Virtual Book Signing events. I also spoke several times with David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, authors of “Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason,” a book that delves into Lincoln’s use of Euclid geometry in his speeches. Given my own work in progress – a book on Lincoln’s “sciencey” side – I felt privileged at the opportunity to get their insights first hand.

Panel discussion

Panel with (l-r) Jack Davis, Craig Symonds, James McPherson, John Marszalek, Richard McMurry

Like most conferences, the annual Lincoln Forum symposium includes stellar speakers, stimulating panel discussions, and significant award presentations. Unlike some conferences, the camaraderie is palpable, as both old and new friends gleefully share their interest in one of our greatest presidents.

Jim Getty

Jim Getty

And then there is Jim Getty. Each year the Lincoln Forum gives the Richard Nelson Current Achievement Award to someone who has contributed to “the spirit of Lincoln in both word and deed.” This year the recipient of the award was kept secret for only the second time, then given to an unsuspecting Jim Getty for his nearly 40-year career as a Lincoln presenter.

Bobby Horton

Bobby Horton

Finally, the conference closed with a performance by instrumentalist and singer Bobby Horton, known for his work with Ken Burns on the original PBS miniseries, The Civil War. The best part is that I will get to see Bobby Horton again soon as he provides musical enlightenment during the Lincoln Group of DC’s “2nd Inaugural Address” festivities in March 2015.

Click on these links to get information about joining the Lincoln Forum and the Lincoln Group of DC.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

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Shaken, Stirred, Abraham Lincoln, and the Climate Crisis

Two weeks, three conferences, and thousands of social interactions. It’s good to be home.

Shaken, Yet StirredThat’s how I start off my most recent piece on Hot White Snow. It all started with a full-day conference on the Election of 1864 sponsored by the Lincoln Group of DC. The next day I flew to Vancouver for SETAC, and then after only a couple of days back took off for Gettysburg and the annual Lincoln Forum. Shaken, Yet Stirred relates my need for period recharging during these busy social occasions. Plug me in to an energy source for a while, and I’m all ready to go back into the game.

Climate Crisis Tired of scientists being too technical in describing climate science? The Dake Page reviews a book called The Climate Crisis that attempts to give the basics without all the math. They don’t entirely succeed – it’s still technical enough to not be suitable for non-technical folks – but it is full of color graphics, charts, tables, and photographs documenting every aspect of climate science. Think of it as IPCC-lite.

And then there is Lincoln. We had some great speakers at the Lincoln Group of DC symposium, and two of them also participated in another Lincoln event – the Lincoln Forum held in Gettysburg, PA. I’ll write more about this Forum shortly, but I can report already that I plan to attend next year, and the next, and the next. One cool feature of the Forum is that you’re sure to find more than one Abraham Lincoln wandering the halls. This is my first photo-op with a US President!

Abe and Me

Speaking of the Lincoln Group of DC, please plan to join us on December 16th for a great dinner speaker – Gerard Magliocca. Check back soon for much more…including some upcoming overseas science traveling.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

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